Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NOTES: WHAT BISHOPS EXPECT OF JOURNALISTS

Introduction

May I thank Archbishop Lawrence of Lahore, Pakistan and Fr. Josef-Franz Eilers, SVD, his executive secretary in the FABC-OSC, for inviting me to share my thoughts at this seminar.

What I wish to share with you comes from almost 30 years of experience with journalists in my various roles as President of a Philippines Catholic University in Southern Philippines, as a bishop, as a lead person in press conferences given by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines or by the Synod of Bishops in Rome, and recently by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

A Word to Bishops

If one is interviewed as an individual bishop speaking in his own name, there does not seem to be much of a problem. But when one is interviewed as representing a Bishops’ Conference, or a Synod of Bishops, or a Federation of Episcopal Conferences, one would have to be extremely careful about what to say.

The interviews I dread most are “ambush interviews” especially when a Manila radio or television station would call me up in Cotabato, 500 miles away, and say, “Bishop, in about 10 minutes may we interview you on such and such issues.” In many cases the radio/TV station would tell you to comment about what one bishop or the President of the country has said. In most of these cases I decline to comment on the ground that I have not read nor verified the comment. But the other reason is to avoid being part of the game that some Philippine media seem inclined to play, i.e., to pit one person against another or to show a division of opinion or even conflict in the hierarchy, or between bishops and the government. But the real risk in “ambush interviews” is when there are no written press releases and no time to prepare one’s thoughts about some burning issues. Then I really dread what one or two reporters out of 15 will write for the next day’s papers.

A classic case for me was in 1997 when the Philippine Bishops appointed me to draft a pastoral exhortation on the ethical aspects of the Philippine economy. I was then interviewed by several reporters after the Bishops’ Plenary Assembly. One question was: “Do the Bishops think there are more poor people now than in the last ten years?” I gave a two part answer: “The Bishops do not have the data. Therefore, we do not know. But we will examine the available economic indicators to prepare the CBCP document. The answer could be one of three: yes, no or there is no difference.” The following day all the newspapers reported correctly. But one newspaper the banner headline that trumpeted the idea that: Bishops Say - More Poor Now Under President Ramos. It was simply a case of an erroneous headline that did not reflect the actual content of the report. But naturally the headline was more important than the write-up and this created a political war of words. The political opposition naturally supported the headline. The President requested to see me. At the presidential palace, he and his economic advisers treated me and two other bishops to a power point presentation of the pro-poor achievements and agenda of his government. I clarified the erroneous report. We shook hands, had a good lunch, and became close friends.

In another case five years ago, a newspaper reporter quoted me and after the quote he added what he thought was a logical conclusion. It changed the meaning of the quote. Our CBCP press office (we had a functioning media office at that time) sent a correction to the editor. Instead of simply publishing the correction, the newspaper decided to write a short article with the title, “CBCP flip-flops.” A double whammy on the Bishops!

Through the years I have learned that in any interview, a bishop cannot simply come out with whatever comes to his mind. Things said cannot be erased. When you read the next day’s paper, you might regret what you have said uncritically, even if only as obiter dicta and off the cuff.

In relation to media and media practitioners a Bishop has to consistently reflect the following values:

truth and charity;
clarity and conciseness;
an occasional felicitous quotable phrase;
a sense of humor and a lot of patience.

Beyond gimmicks to have good public relations, these values are most important.

A Word to Journalists

On the other hand, I likewise have some observations and suggestions for journalists who write about the Church.

The basic attitude of the Church towards media and journalists is positive. Media are instruments for the communication of truth, justice, peace and love – the Gospel or Kingdom values that serve as the pillars of society. God is truth. Everything that is true reflects the nature of God.

Media practitioners have more than a profession by which they earn their livelihood. They have a vocation – a vocation that is God given. The communication of deep human values that are values of God’s reign is their vocation. In this they also have a task to help inform and educate, to help form individuals and human society in accordance with these values.

This vocation reflects a God-given dignity, the dignity of sharing in and reflecting the very nature of God, who is Truth, communicating himself to us in space and time through the eternal Word, his own Son Jesus, in the Spirit of Wisdom and Truth. Every communication of truth is an act that is a seed of the Divine.

But media are “human-made” and are utilized by human beings. They, therefore, share likewise – and sadly - - in the evil and weakness that we are all heir to – pride, arrogance, selfishness, inability to see the whole truth, biases and prejudices, one-sidedness, lack of objectivity and perspective.
Therefore, the Church’s attitude to the tools and practitioners of social communication is both positive and also mixed with caution.

With the above presuppositions, these are some suggestions:

It is necessary for journalists to understand the Church from its own perspective. That perspective is fundamentally religious, spiritual and ethical. This dimension is its very nature and mission in the world. Although it may be seen by secular society as a political force, the Church does not engage society in terms of a political agenda or political motivation. Therefore, to interpret the Church from a political angle and to speculate on possible political motivations for its various positions on burning issues of the day is to grossly misinterpret the Church. For instance, a close reading of the CBCP statements of July 2005, January 2006 and July 2006 on the issues of presidential resignation and impeachment would provide discerning readers the moral reasons for their stand. But it is unfortunate that media in general only presented the CBCP stand without really delving into the moral reasons for it. Instead the possible political motivations were discussed by many journalists. I believe this is because many fail to interpret the Church from its own perspective as a moral and religious force.

Armed with the proper perspective regarding the Church, journalists can be better equipped to follow their vocation – to communicate Truth. Truth requires fairness, accuracy, and objectivity.

However, the pursuit and communication of truth has to hurdle many obstacles. We all know that truth is not served:

by distorting information -- and truth is distorted by omitting essential information or disregarding context;
by using misleading and even erroneous headlines or illustrations;
by half-truths;
by not differentiating between advocacy and news reporting;
by oversimplifying;
by misrepresenting fact or context (all the above, from Society of Professional Journalists, “Code of Ethics,” 1996, Indianapolis);
by improper emphasis (see Philippine Press Institute and National Press Club, “Journalist’s Code of Ethics”);
by not verifying alleged facts (later corrections not being given proper space);
by mixing speculation with facts.

It is for the above reasons that in Philippine media one needs to be very careful about information “according to a reliable source.” The source might not at all be reliable.

For instance in one classic case, someone had interviewed an “anonymous bishop.” He allegedly told the reporter that the Bishops received a “tongue lashing” from the Papal Nuncio before they wrote their statement in July 2005 on the issue of presidential resignation. According to the newspaper report, the Nuncio had “scolded” the Bishops regarding their alleged past political “interference.” So, when the Bishops issued a statement that seemed like a “neutral position” to some in the face of the call by the political opposition for the President of the country to resign, the alleged “scolding” by the Papal Nuncio was considered a reason. Much of this was a fallacious argument, “post hoc, ergo propter hoc”, since the statement came after the scolding, then the kind of statement that the Bishops issued must have been because of the “scolding.”

I received many local and foreign inquiries about what really happened. Did the Nuncio really give us a “tongue lashing”? Did Rome really impose its will on us? I simply had to tell them that the main consensus points had been written out the night before the talk of the Papal Nuncio. His talk could in no way be called “tongue-lashing” nor even a mild “scolding.” It was simply a calm objective review of church teachings that all the bishops already knew. Hence, the Bishops did not make the slightest deviation from the general consensus points that they had already reached the night before. In fact the rest of the day was spent refining the consensus points and discussing how to write them in as clear a language as possible. This was especially so since many people regarded as simply “black and white” what, indeed, was a very complex political situation with many debatable legal issues. The bottom line – the reporter picked out the wrong bishop for his “reliable source” and as we say in the Philippines “nakuryente siya”; he got burned. But unfortunately the report also damaged the credibility of the Bishops as an independent body.

Or take the case of “improper emphasis” that distorts the truth. Here in the Philippines an example is the difference between “imperial Manila” and the provinces outside Metro Manila. Emphasis seems to be placed by media by what is happening in Manila. But what is true is the fact that the sentiments of many in Manila may not necessarily be the sentiments of the rest of the country. It is the sentiment of the rest of the country that the Bishops in the different dioceses carry with them to their plenary assemblies. At the peak of all the political opposition rallies in Manila, there was no similar general reaction in the provinces. The rest of the Philippines perceive things differently. Morally what may be simply black and white to some may be tinged with a lot of debatable grey to many others.

Finally, it is the moral perspective that impels the bishops to take seemingly contrary positions on some political issues: their position regarding the resignation and impeachment of the President may seem to be supportive of the President; but their position on constitutional change very clearly does not support the President’s own position.

Again, it is absolutely necessary to interpret the bishops’ positions on political issues from the moral perspective rather than from within a political framework.

Philippine journalism is a mixed bag of freedom and responsibility; fairness, accuracy, and objectivity. I sometimes think that the freewheeling type of news reporting and opinion-making in Philippine media is a reflection of the free-wheeling type of politics that we have. I have often wondered how two reporters at the same CBCP press conference could report the same event so differently. A veteran journalist explained to me that the two papers they write for represent two different political perspectives. As they say, “meron angulo na politika” – they have a political angle.

Conclusion

My own expectation then of journalists is quite simple:

Be true to your vocation as vehicles of truth. Tell the truth and do it charitably.

God through His Spirit of wisdom and Truth ceaselessly communicates his gift to humanity – God’s eternal Word -- who is Jesus the Truth.

When you tell the truth and do it charitably, you share in this divine communication.


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
FABC-OSC Communications Seminar
Bukal ng Tipan, Antipolo, Rizal (Philippines)
November 22, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TOWARDS A NEW CATECHESIS OF THE FAMILY IN ASIA

Introduction

May I thank FABC-OESC, led by Bishop Aloysius Sudarsu of Indonesia and Fr. Vicente Cajilig, O.P., for the kind invitation that the Office has extended to me to speak at this important gathering.

I have listened attentively to the sub-regional reports. They have been very interesting and informative. The reports serve as a valuable background to my reflection. Here my purpose is to suggest certain directions for the catechesis and faith formation of the Family in Asia.

As indicated in your program, my present reflection will look into the catechetical implications of the 8th Plenary Assembly of the FABC in Korea in 2004. The theme of the Plenary Assembly was: “The Asian Family towards a Culture of integral Life.” This was also the title of its Final Document, which shall serve as the basic reference for the present reflection.


A. The Shape of Present Family Ministry – a Focus on the Culture of Life.

Before the 8th Plenary Assembly the FABC Office of the Laity, did an informal survey of the objectives and activities of the offices of Asian Episcopal Conferences that are in charge of Family ministry. The survey result indicated the common concerns of family ministry and family catechesis. These common concerns may be said to describe the general shape of family ministry in Asia.

Quite obviously, as seen in the activities of family ministry the general direction of family catechesis is to promote the “culture of life” and to evangelize the “culture of death” seeping insidiously and subtly into Asian cultures. Pope John Paul II’s document, Evangelium Vitae, has persuasively pressed this general concern into Catholic consciousness and to a certain extent into the consciousness of all humanity.

All over Asia is a concern for “pro-Life” catechesis and advocacy based on the Catholic belief of the seamless nature of life from conception to death. Thus family catechesis all over Asia is directed to raising awareness on the dignity and sacredness of human life, respect for and defense of human life. The major traditional threats to human life are seen to be contraception, abortion, and capital punishment. These threats take various forms. They are also at various levels, including international, as seen in the lobbying done by international groups on the policies of national governments in favor of population control through every means possible, including abortion.

In addition most family catechesis is focused on the faith-formation of man and woman in view of marriage, such as pre-matrimonial catechesis and marriage enrichment, and family responsibility with regard to the upbringing of children toward maturity. More recently there has been a renewed interest in Bible studies as part of the on-going faith-formation of couples.

With due consideration for other concerns that family catechesis in various countries might have, what I have just presented is, I believe, a general description of present family ministry in Asia.


B. A New Shape of Family Catechesis:

Let us now look at new directions for the catechesis of the family as suggested 8th FABC Plenary Assembly in 2004.


1. Implication of the methodological approach:

FABC’s discernment on the Family in Asia followed what is called “the Pastoral Spiral.” This method of discernment starts with an analysis of the situation and is followed by reflection-in-faith. In the light of both the situational analysis and the faith-reflection, certain pastoral recommendations or decisions are made. At the FABC Plenary Assembly, this third phase (decision-making) was the end of the discernment process. It was left to the Episcopal conferences and their Family Life Commissions to continue the pastoral spiral by going into the planning on how to implement the decisions. Action or implementation then follows. To conclude the pastoral spiral, evaluation is made not only of the result or impact of the action but also of the whole process of discernment. This is really an elaboration of the well known process of “see --- judge --- act.”

Thus:

Situation ‪→→ Reflection in Faith →→ Decisions/Recommendations →→

Planning →→ Action →→ Evaluation.

The Pastoral Spiral ensures that faith reflection is situated in context – contextualized. Faith does not operate in a vacuum. This is so because the light of faith bears upon the situation and illumines it. Pastoral decision and action are likewise the fruit of the interaction between situation and faith.

Therefore, being a principal instrument for faith-formation, catechesis has to be contextualized. It may deal with doctrine but that doctrine has to be applied to the situation in order to be meaningful and relevant.

This has also to be true of family catechesis. The factors that impact family life positively or negatively are important for catechesis. The daily struggles that families experience or suffer through are part and parcel of family catechesis. Contextualization will prevent irrelevance and pure abstraction. On the other hand, faith-reflection on the situation in the light of Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church will prevent merely secular or even ideological interpretation of family realities.

Obviously the method of discernment that the 8th FABC Plenary Assembly used would be extremely useful for family catechesis. It can more easily lead to the application of teaching to life, i.e., to orthopraxis. It is necessary for catechesis to go beyond orthodoxy to orthopraxis.


2. The Global and the Asian Context of the Family: Implications to Catechesis.

If family catechesis is to be contextualized, we need to realize that the family is influenced by various factors at three general levels: local, regional, and global.

At the local and regional levels are factors such as the social, political, and economic situation, the rural and agricultural character of most Asian families, the cultural and religious elements such as language, religious beliefs and traditions, customs, etc.

At the global level, one may sum up many of the factors that impact the family under the rubric of “globalization,” economic and cultural.

The 8th FABC Plenary Assembly analyzed the impact of globalization on the family in the following terms:

- the weakening of cherished traditional family values, such as the sense of the sacred, respect for parents and the elderly, marriage as sacred life-time commitment, etc.;
- the rise of new family forms, different from is traditionally believed is the ideal, i.e., a family founded on the marriage between man and woman;
- the breaking up of the Asian “nuclear family” because of poverty, job opportunities, migration, new family values, emerging secular ideas;

The Plenary Assembly also realized that many traditional family values might actually be quite negative in terms of the message of the Gospel and of the teachings of the Church: e.g. values arising from caste-ism, from an extreme type of “patriarchal” framework where women are subordinate, subservient, and disposable.

Thus, one can immediately see that any genuine catechesis, particularly family catechesis, would have to discern the significance of globalization, its impact on the human person, families, on communities, on the beliefs and values of people, on the way they live their faith.

We can also see that catechesis is more than just religious doctrine. It is about the formation of individuals and communities that are impacted not only by religious and spiritual factors but, indeed, by all the other dimensions that make up human life. The faith that is to be formed through catechesis is more than devotional and spiritual. The faith to be formed is integral faith, faith that remains mature, can interface, and can engage with religious, cultural, political, economic, and social challenges.


3. Various Forms of the Asian Family: Implications to Catechesis.

May I elaborate a bit more on what I have briefly mentioned – the rise of “new” family forms in Asia.

Many of these forms have been with us for a long, long time. They seem to be new only because we never really paid pastoral attention to them. They are new because they have only recently come to our pastoral consciousness in the Church in Asia.

I am not referring to “same-sex unions.” I am referring to families consisting of single parents, divorced or separated parents, families where mothers and/or fathers are absent for a long time because of migrant work, inter-cultural and/or inter-religious parents and families.

It seems to me that family catechesis and family ministry in Asia have not given adequate attention to these various forms of family. I would be happy to be corrected. But I do know that in one Asian country where almost 70% of marriages are inter-faith marriages, the dioceses do not have pastoral guidelines or formation courses that would help the couples deal with serious issues regarding their practice of faith, the faith of their children, the worship that the family will give to God, etc.

Because Asia has a basically inter-cultural and inter-faith character, I would think that a sort of “paradigm shift” should take place with regard to the priorities of family catechesis and family ministry. What we face daily in most of Asia is not so much the so-called “ideal” family of a Catholic mother and a Catholic father of the same culture, but a husband and wife belonging to different cultures and different religions, etc.


4. The Theological Vision of Family in 8th FABC Plenary Assembly – Implications to Catechesis.

It is from the pastoral situation of the Asian family that the 8th Plenary Assembly draws up the key themes that are required for a theological vision of the family. Among these themes are:

- towards a culture of integral life – covenant love and life, communion and solidarity;
- towards the family as a sanctuary of love and life, covenant and communion;
- vocation and mission of the family in the church and in society;
- spirituality of communion, discipleship and “the way of the ordinary”;
- human relationships in the family;
- the family, the Reign of God, and social transformation.

Indeed, one can make a quick contrast between the above theological themes and a traditional theological framework for viewing marriage and the family.

If this is so, then new catechetical modules for family catechesis would be needed.


5. Evangelization and Social transformation in Asia – Implications to Family Catechesis.

The Lord has entrusted the whole Church with a mission of evangelization. This is so with the family, the domestic church. The catechetical formation of the Asian family’s missionary consciousness would require formators to be thoroughly familiar not only with the basic references – the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, particularly Vatican II teachings and great papal documents.

But in a special way catechists in Asia should be also familiar with the main FABC documents which, in a certain sense, contextualize the teachings of Vatican II into the Asian situation, its peoples especially the poor, its cultures, and its religions. Here we see the great themes of mission and evangelization, inculturation, inter-religious dialogue, and integral human development.

In a particularly way, within the general consciousness of mission and considering Asia’s complex realities, the Church in Asia needs to needs to “accompany” families in faith-inspired social discernment. The Church has to form the religious faith of families so that they may be able to cope with their own social concerns. The formation of a social conscience in the family would be particularly imperative.

Beyond the family’s own social concerns are the wider challenges that confront Asian societies. The mission of evangelization urges the family to go out its own confines and into the neighborhood and even beyond. For the families to do this, the church needs to assist families through catechesis and other means to engage in concerns regarding poverty, injustice, development, peace, conflict, ecological issues, youth, exploitation of children and women, HIV/AIDS, etc.

Faith-formation would include enabling the Asian family to build communities of justice and harmony, to build bridges of solidarity with other families toward the work of social transformation.


6. Family and Basic Ecclesial Community – Implications on Catechesis.

This solidarity with other families brings us to consider the implication of the FABC Plenary Assembly’s treatment of the relationship between the family and the Basic Ecclesial Community.

BEC building is one of the major pastoral priorities of the Church in Asia. For most BEC’s the family is the building block. In fact in some approaches to BEC, a cluster of 10 to 20 families, called Family Groups, makes up one BEC. It is evident that the strength, the unity, and the life of the BEC depend very strongly on the quality of life and faith of each family in the BEC, as well as on their relationships with one another.

This is even more so when we consider the building of Basic Human Communities (BHC) which are composed of families of different faiths.

In a very true sense the faith formation of the family is not only for itself but also for he sake of the Basic Ecclesial / Human Community. Hence, faith-formation through catechesis will have to include relationships within the family, relationships with other families. Catechesis will have to include formation to a community of disciples, formation as well to leadership in community, formation to prayer and community prayer, formation finally in community building.


Summing up - A Contextualized Catechesis on the Family:

From the above observations one can see the far-reaching implications of the 8th FABC Plenary Assembly document, “The Asian Family towards a Culture of Integral Life.” Among these implications are the following needs that are, in effect, pastoral directives for catechesis:

- contextualizing family catechesis by way of a pastoral spiral of discernment that starts with the pastoral situation of the family and the social, political, economic, religious and cultural factors that impact the family;
- a new paradigm of family ministry that would go beyond the traditional concerns of a “pro-life” program to include also the new concerns that are required of a culture of “integral life”;
- faith formation in the family that would enable it to be a community of committed faith and to help build similar communities;
- family catechesis to look beyond internal needs of a family and empower it for the task of social transformation.

In the light of the above perspective, one can see the usefulness and validity of the vision and framework that the 8th Plenary Assembly suggested for family ministry in Asia and the corresponding catechesis that it requires:

- a Family Ministry that Forms and empowers;
- a Family Ministry that Cares and Serves;
- a Family Ministry that Promotes Social Transformation;

In fact, the Plenary Assembly has said: “May it not even be said that the focal point of evangelization should be the family as object and subject, to which all parish pastoral programs are geared?” (no. 100).

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
FABC-OESC Assembly on Catechesis
Assumption University, Bangkok
October 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

PCP-II ON A RENEWED CHURCH PURSUING JUSTICE, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE

Introduction

The very first talk in this national orientation for new SAC directors has set the tone for the next three days. In his usual competent way Bishop Francisco Claver, S.J., has presented the vision of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) with regard to the Church of the Poor. This vision may be considered as the overarching goal and framework for social action ministry in the Philippines.

My talk this morning will dwell on:

a) the PCP-II larger vision of Church;
b) the implication of this vision on the renewal of the Church;
c) and on the Church’s task of pursuing justice, development and peace.

[To understand better the thought of PCP-II in the light of later Episcopal pronouncements, read the four CBCP pastoral exhortations to prepare for the Great Jubilee Year 2000: on Philippine Politics, 1997; on the Philippine Economy, 1998; on Filipino Culture, 1999; and on Filipino Spirituality, 2000].

A. The PCP-II Vision of Church and Society.

The general question that PCP-II grappled with in 1991 was: How can the Church be a more effective and credible evangelizer, given the present pastoral situation of the Philippines? The general answer was: by being a renewed Church and by being faithful to its mission of integral evangelization.

The term “integral evangelization” meant that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus has both eternal and temporal dimensions. Jesus announced salvation in the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace, truth and love, which has now begun in Jesus here on earth but is not fulfilled definitively except at the end of time. It is in the “here and now” dimension of the Kingdom of God that integral liberation from everything that is dehumanizing, most especially sinfulness, finds its place. Eternal salvation does not exclude human liberation. In fact, the church teaches that human liberation is intimately linked to the mission of evangelization. It is here – in the task of human liberation - that the social action apostolate is grounded.

Surveying the national situation PCP-II discerned many “lights and shadows” (See PCP-II Final Document, nos. 18-32, and especially Appendix I, “The Contemporary Philippine Situation,” pp. 275-91). PCP-II described the imbalances of the economic and political situation and saw these imbalances as reinforced by the negative features of our cultural life. From such a situation PCP-II proceeded to describe a vision of society toward which the Church would carry out its task of social transformation. This is the PCP-II vision of society:

That all may have life (mabigyan ng buhay) –
we shall have to create a free nation:
where human dignity and solidarity
are respected and promoted;
where moral principles prevail in socio-economic life and structure;
where justice, love, and solidarity are the inner driving forces of development.

We shall have to build a sovereign nation:
where every tribe and faith are respected;
where diverse tongues and traditions work together for the good of all;
where membership is a call to participation and involvement
and leadership a summon to generous service.

Ours will have to be a people
in harmony with one another through unity in diversity;
in harmony with creation,
and in harmony with God.

Ours shall be a civilization of life and love (PCP-II Final Document, nos. 253-55).

The above vision of Philippine society expresses the following values of the Kingdom of God:

1) freedom and sovereignty;
2) human dignity and solidarity;
3) the primacy of morality in the social order;
4) justice and love as driving forces of development;
5) respect for cultural values and traditions;
6) the common good as goal;
7) participation and service as responsibility;
8) unity in diversity;
9) harmony with creation and with God.

Presumably, if the above values become operative in society, the result would be “a civilization of life and love.”

The general response of the Church toward this vision and the task of social transformation is its vision of itself.

Although PCP-II did not provide an explicit and concise enunciation of this vision, we are by now generally aware of its fundamental components, namely:

1) a Church of authentic disciples;
2) a Church of communion;
3) a participatory Church;
4) a Church engaged in integral evangelization;
5) an inculturated Church;
6) and a Church of the Poor.

The following would be a personal summing up of the PCP-II vision of Church in the Philippines:

To announce effectively and credibly the Gospel of Jesus as truly salvific and liberating, to be truly a leaven in society transforming the Filipino person into a new creation and the Filipino nation into a closer reflection of the Kingdom of God, we Filipino Catholics have to be what we claim we are: a community of the Lord’s disciples, where everyone participates actively in the building of God’s people, each one totally motivated by God’s love which expresses itself most especially in a Christian love of preference for the poor, thus making the community of disciples a Church of the Poor (see my talk, “The Formation of Teachers and Lay Leaders in Service of the Faith and the Filipino,” CEAP National Convention, July 4, 1991; also NASAGA, Naga City, October 2, 1991).

The PCP-II vision of Church is, indeed, formidable. And the most difficult to realize, I believe, is to be a Church of the Poor, because this vision requires a profound conversion of every facet of our lives.

From the situation to the vision, the Church committed itself to a journey of renewal, a journey of integral evangelization, so that the Church could be credible and effective in its over-all mission in the Philippines. The Church would have to avoid the failures of its evangelizing efforts (see PCP-II Final Document, e.g., nos. 30-31) as a “potent yet flawed” evangelizer.

In 2001, ten years after PCP-II, the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) stated that the PCP-II reading of the Philippine situation was still quite valid. The imbalances remained generally the same. The Church reviewed what it had accomplished in its 10-year journey of renewal and integral evangelization. The review showed similar “lights and shadows” that PCP-II had already seen. The economic, political, cultural, and religious problems remained generally the same. Nonetheless there were many significant advances in renewal especially where the BECs were active.

One of the problems that dioceses encountered was the sheer comprehensiveness and magnitude of renewal. The 132 decrees of PCP-II and the many other recommendations found within the text of the Council, were very difficult to implement. In order, therefore, to make the goals of renewal more simple, the National Consultation drew up nine major pastoral priorities for the Church in the Philippines (see Final Message of NPCCR, “Behold I Make All things New,” 7), namely:

1) Integral Faith Formation;
2) Empowerment of the Laity towards Social Transformation;
3) Active Presence and Participation of the Poor;
4) The Family as the Focal Point of Evangelization;
5) Building and Strengthening of Participatory Communities that make up the Parish as a Community of Communities;
6) Integral Renewal of the Clergy (and Religious);
7) Journeying with the Youth;
8) Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue;
9) Animation and Formation for Mission ad Gentes.

The Consultation exhorted, “We enjoin all communities of faith to engage in contextualized pastoral reflection, dialogue, discernment, planning and action based on these nine priorities” (Message of NPCCR, 8).

It is now 15 years since PCP-II ended. In many dioceses all over the country the work of renewal toward the vision of church and society has focused on the building of Basic Ecclesial Communities as the pastoral priority. The BEC as a vision of “a new way of being Church” has the advantage of concentrating pastoral efforts on the family level of grassroots communities, namely, on the cluster of families that make up the BEC (thus nos. 3-5 of the pastoral priorities).

In the BEC the focal point of evangelization is, indeed, the family. Toward the BEC all the pastoral programs of the diocese, including social action, is directed. The BEC in turn becomes the agent of integral evangelization.

B. In Pursuit of Justice, Development and Peace.

From the perspective of integral renewal and of integral evangelization, we now ask: what is the place of Social Ministry or Social Apostolate?

Bishop Claver’s talk provided a first answer in terms of the relationship between social ministry and the vision of a Church of the Poor.

Allow me to place his topic within the general context of my own topic.

PCP-II itself raised the urgent and relevant questions:

How should the Church foster social transformation and assist the little people in bringing about harmony and kaayusan in their lives? How should the Church announce the Kingdom of Justice, Peace and Love in the context of great social, economic, political and cultural imbalances? How can we as a community of the Lord’s disciples be a leaven of social transformation? (no. 261).
Responding to the questions PCP-II prescribed four general directions for social action to take (see nos.262-373):

1) the Formation of a Social Conscience;
2) the Application of the Social Doctrine of the Church;
3) the Renewal of the Political Order;
4) The Living of a Spirituality of Social Transformation.

How urgent and imperative these four general directions are in our day! I am sometimes shocked that many well educated Catholics think of the mission of the church in purely “other worldly” terms, in exclusively spiritual terms. We are aware. of course, of the many current misunderstandings of the role of the Church regarding issues of politics, economics, ecology and the like. And we are often frustrated and exasperated by the political circus played by politicians from left, right, and center that happens daily in “imperial” Manila. Unfortunately media seems treat this political bickering with an intensity and seriousness that it does not really deserve. People in the countryside do not are concerned more about their own economic survival and politicians have ignored these more primary needs. Hence, we see how absolutely necessary it is for us to form a truly Christian social conscience and to renew the political order with the guidance of the social doctrine of the Church. The social doctrine of the church consists of “principles
of reflection, criteria for judgment, and directives of action.”

Thank God, we now have in our hands a Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. A copy of this should be in the hands of every Social Action director. In fact, it should be translated into the major languages of the Philippines for easy access to lay leaders in the Basic Ecclesial Communities.

Let me suggest further supplementary answers to the questions PCP-II asked by way of a process of discernment and a general schema for the social apostolate.

1. A Process of Discernment.

PCP-II followed a process of discernment that is known as the Pastoral Spiral. This was developed in the 1980s by two FABC Offices, Human Development and Laity, in order to help participants in social immersion programs to interiorize and express their experience.

The process begins with a holistic analysis (social and cultural analysis) of the pastoral situation. It is followed by faith-reflection on the situation in the light of Sacred Scriptures and the Teachings of the Church. It then proceeds to pastoral decisions, planning and action. The spiral ends with evaluation, after which a new spiral begins. It is a fuller version of the usual “see, judge, act” process. The Final Document of PCP was also constructed according to the same process, although the documents end with pastoral decisions or decrees. Thus, the Pastoral Spiral:


Situation Analysis → → Reflection in Faith → → Pastoral Decision → →Planning → →

Action → → Evaluation.


2. A Schema for the Social Action Apostolate.

To give some sense to the PCP-II decrees of the social apostolate, may I suggest a schema. At the outset Article 20 of PCP-II provides a general pastoral orientation for all the decrees on the social apostolate:

#1. The Church must exert all efforts to reduce the gap between faith and practice in the area of social justice by working for greater justice and equality in Philippine society.

#2. Action on behalf of justice is to be pursued as a sign of Christian witnessing to Chirst and His teachings.

#3. The social action apostolate is to be constantly given solid religious grounding through catechesis and organic linking with worship.

The decrees then specifically target three areas as tasks of renewal, namely, Formation, Inculturation, and Spirituality. Moreover Article 22.1 notes the necessity of holistic analysis:

A thorough social analysis, structural and cultural is to be promoted more intensely in the process of building u[p discerning communities of faith, precisely to the end that their efforts at social transformation take into account hard social realities and carried through from a genuine perspective of faith.

Hence, the following suggested Schema for Social Ministry in Pursuit of Justice, Development and Peace. See PCP-II articles 22 - 33:


PROCESS / ACTIVITIES

Holistic Analysis
- through brainstorming sessions in dioceses and parishes;

Formation and Inculturation

- through immersion-exposure programs, reflection-action process;
- formation of a Christian social conscience;
- biblical catechesis for social involvement and transformation;
- formation in the social teachings of the Church;
- emphasis on value formation;
- political formation for lay people;
- skills training;
- grounding the social apostolate in the teachings of the Church and linking it with worship - the liturgy and the sacraments.

Organization

- Social Action steering committee made up of the different sectors of theChurch;
- Lay people to assume leadership roles;
- Coordination of all pastoral programs based on a common vision;
- Inter-sectoral, inter-faith, international linkages.

Programs and Projects

- e.g., ecology, labor, rural poor;
- women, sick and handicapped, youth, families of OFWs;
- setting up social fund for the poor;
- research by Catholic educational institutions on basic causes of social problems.

Spirituality

- development of a holistic spirituality for social transformation;
- Christian witnessing in action for justice.


THRUST

- toward Justice, Development and Peace;
- toward Empowerment of the Poor / Grassroots Communities (BECs);
- toward Building Discerning and Transformative Communities.




SETTING / TARGET

- Diocese, Parish;
- Small Faith Communities, Schools, Seminaries, Formation Houses;
- Religious Organizations, etc.


VISION OF CHURCH AND SOCIETY

C. SPIRITUALITY OF SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION – THE SYNTHESIZING PRINCIPLE

What I would consider as the synthesizing principle, the summing up of the requirements of renewal in the pursuit of justice, development and peace, is “a spirituality of social transformation.” [This section is mostly taken from my CBCP article, “Announcing a Message of Liberation,” 1992]. PCP-II develops this spirituality in nos. 262-282.

In no. 261, PCP-II asks: “How can we, as a community of the Lord’s disciples, be a leaven of social transformation?”

The answer immediately follows in no. 262: “the most basic and effective response… can come only from the very depths of our being as disciples of the Lord,.. in our following of Jesus, in our fidelity to his Gospel of Justice and Love and thus, in our spirituality.”

The faith-reflection of PCP-II looks at the socio-economic and political problems in terms of sinfulness (nos. 264-70). This realization of sinfulness as the root cause must lead to conversion and social transformation (nos. 272-74).

For this to happen, a definite way of life – a spirituality – has to develop, “which is nothing more and nothing less than a following of Jesus-in-mission. It is the spirituality of the community of disciples” (See a further elaboration of this spirituality in my talk, “Spirituality of Social Transformation,” 1990 National Social Action General Assembly, Dumaguete City).

PCP-II firmly believed that a spirituality of “following Jesus-in-mission” bears the key to authentic social transformation, to the overcoming of sinfulness and the dismantling of structures of sin. This spirituality is “marked by an enduring and intimate commitment to Jesus, .. by a love of preference for the poor” (no. 278). It is “a hunger and thirst for justice,” a heeding of God’s word “in the voices of the voiceless and powerless,” an urging “to care for the earth as God’s gift,” “a witnessing to the radical demands of the Gospel” (nos. 278-82).

To recognize spirituality as the synthesizing principle in the task of pursuing justice, development and peace is to recognize the role of the Spirit of God in recreating a new nation and a new Filipino. It is also a confession of our own utter human lack of power in the face of evil.

It is, finally, a declaration that, when all is said and done, it is the power and the wisdom of God manifested by the Cross and the Empty Tomb that ultimately brings “into our midst a fuller realization of the Kingdom of Jesus, a kingdom of justice, peace and love” (no. 401).


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Orientation for New SAC Directors
Tagaytay, March 23, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI and the Clash of Faith and Reason

1. I have not made any public comment on the Pope's lecture on Faith and Reason at the University of Regensburg, except to my own Clergy and Religious. I have read the Pope's lecture twice—very closely. I have analyzed its tone, its premise, its main issue, the way it is developed, its conclusions. It is closely reasoned. It was given to scholars in an academic setting.

2. As a former academic, frankly I am completely shocked and bewildered by the vehement reaction to the Pope's lecture from various quarters of the Muslim world. TV has shown effigies of Benedict XVI being burned as an enemy of Islam. Churches in several countries have been attacked. The murder of a religious Sister in Somalia has been speculated on as a possible retaliation. I even surmised that the violent reactions could unfortunately confirm the wrong belief of many non-Islam people that Islam may, indeed, be a religion of violence. If this were so, it would be a great pity.

3. But most certainly Pope Benedict XVI is definitely not anti-Muslim. This I declare unequivocally from personal knowledge. I have talked with him several times when he was yet a Cardinal. I have referred issues of inter-religious dialogue to him. He was the closest and most trusted theological adviser of Pope John Paul II. I personally know that he shared the vision of the late Pope John Paul II with regard to inter-religious dialogue.

4. I know that he has the greatest respect for peoples of different religions, particularly of Islam. Together with the Pontifical Commission on Inter-Religious Dialogue, he collaborated with the late Pope on the many significant papal documents and events that had significantly promoted respectful dialogue with Islam. He thought that dialogue with the great religious traditions had a lot to do with the deeply rooted cultural traditions of various peoples.

5. That is why I was not surprised when he placed the Pontifical Commission on Inter-Religious Dialogue under the Vatican office on Culture - a move that was misinterpreted by some critics as a down grading of the process of dialogue. I am sure that he thought of the move as enriching the process and emphasizing the role of culture in inter-religious dialogue. One can see his emphasis on cultural religious values on his insistence that Europe recognize this in its Constitution. One can likewise see this point clearly in his lecture at the University of Regensburg.

6. Further, he continues to regard the continuing war in Iraq with great disapproval. In his own academic style he severely and negatively judged the anti-Islam cartoons in Denmark. In doctrine and in practice, he certainly holds great respect for Islam and its believers. With his great predecessor, Pope John Paul II, he holds in common the conviction that violence is not to be justified in the name of religion, Christian or otherwise. The tragic blunders of religious belief in this regard have littered history with thousands of corpses.

6. The one fault the Pope could have had at the University of Regensburg is his "political" simplicity. Some might call it "naiveté." Certainly I see him as a simple person without any worldly political sophistication, a scholar "without guile". Perhaps he believed that everyone would understand his use of a medieval text in its proper context -- as a simple starting point for a wide-ranging scholarly discussion on the need for the West to restore faith and religious values into its secular mentality. Such restoration has to be done, he says, if the West were to successfully enter into dialogue with the great cultural religious traditions of peoples. Here I suppose he would include such traditions as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.

7. We now know, of course, from his message of September 16, that was covered live by Al-Jazeera that he does not endorse the medieval text. In fact, we are told that the German word that he used in his lecture to describe the statement of the Byzantine Emperor really means "crude."

8. I pray that things will settle down quickly with the apology so humbly expressed by this simple yet learned religious leader.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, DD
September 20, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Peace Negotiations Southern Philippines in Jeopardy.

1. The "breakdown" of peace negotiations is truly disturbing. But it is a possibility that I had always, kept in mind. The reason? The very reason for the "breakdown" as reported by the MILF and given some clarification by the GRP—namely the Philippine Constitution. In the past two years I have asked myself the question: How will the GRP understand the problem of ancestral domain? The answer that always comes to my mind—within the framework of the Constitution. After all, the Executive Branch has to have the Legislative Branch approve an "agreement" reached with the MILF. And on what basis will Congress approve the agreement? On the basis of the Constitution. Thus, the GRP is stuck with what Chairman Murad of the MILF describes very aptly as "in the box" mentality. But I guess this basic preoccupation with the Constitution is part of the democratic process. Fundamentally then, no matter who is at the helm of the GRP (FVR, Erap, Arroyo or her successor) would inevitably have to grapple with that issue. It is not a matter of personalities as some critics seem to think. It is a matter of one normative document for a democracy – a Constitution.

2. On the other hand, how does the MILF look at the issue of ancestral domain? Naturally on the basis of historical and current developments. The injection of current history into the issue of territory is one of the things I admired in the vision of the late Chairman Salamat. His was a vision of a Bangsamoro homeland blended with realism. But even the use of current historical developments could certainly go against the framework that the GRP has to use. Hence such problems as territorial contiguity.

3. I would not be surprised if the discussion on charter change would take on an added issue—the Constitution and the concept of ancestral domain in the light of peace negotiations and in the light of historical and current developments regarding territories.

4. What is certainly needed by both sides is what Chairman Murad has also so aptly described as "creativity" in resolving the issue. I believe this "creative" way is incumbent on BOTH parties. Hence a pause in the negotiations (not necessarily a breakdown) is imperative—for the negotiators to go back to their principals and ask the question: How can our group more creatively push the discussion forward and not remain "in the box" of our set perspective and position? The answer I dare say is a converging move towards a middle ground, which is only arrived at by way of a reciprocal "give and take" dynamic. This is why the peace talks are called "negotiations."

5. The views of a third party—constituted by civil society—could put some light on the present impasse. Somewhere out there are creative ideas to help both sides get out of the box. Could such a group come together to provide a breakthrough?


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Notes on the Human Formation of Priests.

Introduction

May I thank Fr. Lawrence Pinto for inviting me to give you this “keynote” address. My task, I take it, is to set the tone of the consultation and provide some preliminary points of reflection. Two questions are in my mind as I develop this reflection, namely:

a. What kind of priests are to be formed in and for Asia?
b. What kind of formation should they undergo?

It is not my intention to respond to these questions but only to describe the pastoral situation from which these questions arise. I hope that at the end of this consultation, the concrete shape of the answers might begin to emerge from your own reflection and discussion.

This reflection is from the perspective of a former seminary formator and of a pastor. My pastoral experience has been generally in rural areas and, for 20 years years, in a situation where the population is almost equally divided into Muslim and Christian.

Although my perspective so described may apply to many parts of Asia, I do not intend to generalize for Asia. I really wish to apply my observations to a much more restricted area, i.e., Southern Mindanao, Philippines. I shall develop my topic in three steps:

A. Lights and Shadows of the Life and Ministry of Priests in Asia;
B. Some Observations on the Formation Of Priests;
C. A Vision of Priests in Asia.


A. Lights and Shadows of Priestly Life and Ministry in Asia.

On May 25, 1992, Pope John Paul II issued his post-synodal exhortation on the formation of priests in our present circumstances, Pastores Dabo Vobis. He began with the words of Yahweh to the Prophet Jeremiah: “I shall give you shepherds after my own heart.” How would we see the fulfillment of these prophetic words today?

With lights and shadows, I am quite certain.

First of all, it would be safe to say that generally in Asia, God has blessed us with an embarrassment of riches with regard to vocations to the priestly and religious life. Seminaries and religious houses of formation usually do not lack candidates. Our problem is usually not the lack of vocations but the lack of material support for vocations. For instance, in the past five years I have seriously thought – twice - of temporarily closing our philosophy seminary until I could find enough financial support for it. I begin every school year with an act of faith, bordering on presumption, that “Deus providebit.”

There are many more lights in the situation regarding shepherds after the heart of God. Generally our priests are well educated, above the average population. Although most would come from obscure provincial or regional seminaries, priests do have solid academic training and a reasonably adequate spiritual formation. They might not always be the best and the brightest, but we can certainly be proud of them when they are ordained. They are deemed “worthy” in so far as human judgment can declare. They have successfully undergone many years of training and formation.

In the priestly ministry the lifestyle of our priests is simple, many times even austere to the point of being poor. They do reach out to the margins of society, even to remote villages. They exhibit a particular closeness – solidarity - with the poor, an ability to talk with them and be with them, based on sincere Christ-like compassion. Asian priests usually do not come from the Asian social elite. But after many years of seminary formation they generally do not forget or abandon their humble roots. In their ministry among the poor, they demonstrate an authentic seeking for the freedom and love, justice and peace of the Kingdom of God. They would be great promoters of a Church of the Poor.

Generally they get along well with most of their fellow priests and exhibit, at least with their ordination group, a deep human and spiritual bonding, befitting the sacramental bonding of all priests. They do strive together toward an ever deeper spirituality through prayer and ongoing formation by way of occasional seminars, regular retreats and recollections. There is no doubt that each one wishes and strives to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, his pastoral charity, his life and message.

But in the Asian priestly landscape are certain shadows that darken and disfigure the image of the priest. The number of priestly failure is surely insignificant among the tens of thousands of Asian priests. But the notoriety that this small number creates is sadly disproportionate.

People are scandalized and shocked by the extreme cases of egregious infidelity to priestly commitments, particularly to celibacy. They talk among themselves about the playboy image of this or that priest or suspect the sexual orientation of some others. It is tragic to note that in this matter a few priests may have become predatory. People are deeply pained by the lack of congruence between priestly commitment and priestly behavior. But the faithful are often a captive audience and they just have no choice but to bear with and pray for their priests, although they might send letters of complaint, even a delegation of parishioners, to their bishop.

So they also bear with the aloofness and patronizing attitude of some priests, their superior and domineering attitude, their lack of consultative and enabling leadership, the absence of collaboration with the laity and religious in pastoral decision making.

But they are even more saddened by what they see as pastoral mediocrity among some priests, their apparent disinterest in seeking more effective ways of ministry, their proclivity for the “easy way” of merely “sacramental” ministry, their wanting to remain in the status quo of ministry.

We can also see that quite a number have succumbed to the temptation of comfort and security. Sometimes it is also obvious that some priests have abandoned their priestly idealism and spirit of self-sacrifice for the more practical outlook of considering their priestly vocation as a step-up in the social and economic scale. For them the priesthood has become a means of livelihood, a career, rather than as a God-given vocation to serve. People make snide remarks about the “Church of the Poor” when they see some priests with the latest expensive electronic gadgets or even vehicles.

Moreover, in the eyes of people, a good number of priests are good priests simply because they are good organizers or planners, excellent managers or administrators.

Most of all, the fall of many a priest from their identity and place before the Lord and among the people has been significantly due to the lack of prayer life, a loss of awareness of the more fundamental elements of the gift of priesthood as a configuration to Christ, Head and Shepherd. This is the loss of an intimate relationship with Christ. The mutual cause-effect relationship between prayer and virtue, or between spiritual dryness, vice and errant personal relationships can be explored by scholars. But sooner or later, the loss of intimacy with the Lord leads to complete disaster -- the breakdown of priestly identity and the collapse of priestly ministry.

What is particularly tragic in all these various situations is the inability of a troubled priest to seek advice and solution from his bishop or from his fellow priests or to find any strength and healing as well as a compassionate support from his fraternity of priests. Most of the time, his undoing is his own sole responsibility. Sometimes his problem might be the bishop himself. Or it could also mean that the presbyterium does not live up to what it should be – a prayerful, caring, loving, personally and vocationally nurturing community of priests. Or the problem is all of the above.

Whatever the problem may be, priestly failure has far ranging ripple effect that does great damage to the priestly image and to the credibility of the Church. We need only cite the example of the Church in the United States.


B. Some Observations on Priestly Formation.

Many observers naturally inquire about the reasons for these lights and shadows in priestly life and ministry. Some will attribute responsibility to the kind of seminary formation that candidates to the priesthood go through.

There is some validity to that observation. Still I can sincerely state that despite the failures of a small minority of priests that I have spoken about, seminary formation – in terms of both personnel and process – is doing quite well.

However, may I mention a few areas where substantial improvement would be greatly desired.

1. It is axiomatic that seminary formation has to be a holistic continuum. It builds up from stage to stage. Yet in many cases there seems to be a lack of continuity between a special stage – a year - of spirituality formation and the other stages of formation. For instance, since the year of spirituality formation has been undergone, spiritual formation seems to be gradually taken for granted. There seems to be no real systematic follow-up of spiritual formation in the succeeding years.

2. In many cases there does not seem to be a definite orientation for the priesthood from day one of seminary formation. The idea seems to be that the seminarian should be given an opportunity to get a good education and in the process he would somehow get the call from God. Or there is the case of candidates, not yet deemed mature in their decision-making, where every year is a year of testing and discerning, until the final months before diaconate ordination.

3. The absence in seminary formation of a definitive orientation toward the priesthood or of a so-called mature decision to be a priest seems to make it possible for seminarians to have dangerous relationships up to the eve of definitive decision-making, i.e., up to the last year of theology.

4. In many cases, too, human maturity is not presumed until the beginning of theology, while their peers outside the seminary are considered mature enough to marry and have children of their own. This point of view is also carried over to the first few years of priestly ministry, during which the “baby”, meaning young, priests are not given heavy responsibilities. Surely the need for special care of priests in their first few years of ministry does not include the idea of being “babied” with regard to pastoral ministry and decision-making.

5. In the growth toward human maturity, perhaps not enough attention is given to the various stages of human development, as in Erickson’s theory regarding identity, intimacy and generativity, especially when the absence or delay of a definitive orientation to the priesthood makes “identity” problematic. Is it not rather late for already ordained priests to have seminars on psycho-sexual maturity? Would it not be better for such formation to be given to seminarians, especially in the latter part of their formation?

6. In many formation staff the services of a professional guidance counselor / psychologist are lacking. Where these are present, the need for consultation and coordination with professionally trained Spiritual Directors is strongly felt, with absolute respect for the “internal forum” and professional confidentiality. However, much care has to be taken to ensure that professional guidance counselors and psychologists at the service of seminary formation have the Christian vision of the human person and demonstrate great fidelity to the teachings of the Church on human behavior.

7. The idea and the reasons for “regency” or “leave of absence” to enable seminarians with special difficulties to continue their formation outside the seminary setting have to be better understood, both by the seminary staff and the diocesan pastoral staff to whom such seminarians might be asked to report. A lack of understanding, consultation and coordination has very unfortunate results on the vocation of a seminarian.

8. In most seminaries that I know of there is a lack of a practical pastoral theology course that would provide seminarians with the knowledge and skills of inter-religious dialogue, of pastoral planning, organizing and community building, e.g., the building of Basic Ecclesial / Human Communities, etc. Thus they do a sort of “on the job” training after ordination, most of it on their own, or through short term seminars.


D. A Vision of the Priest in Asia.

The final point I would like to deal with is the question: What kind of priest should we be forming in and for Asia?

The answer is suggested by the vision of Church in Asia that the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences has articulated in various ways.

Let me highlight certain elements of that vision in terms of priestly identity. These elements address the shadows of priestly failures and build on the lights of priestly life and ministry that I have mentioned.

I believe that Asian seminaries should help form a priest who is:

1. An integrally mature person – humanly, intellectually, spiritually, pastorally;

2. A person of God-experience;

3. A person driven by the Reign of God;

4. A person of the evangelical counsels;

5. A person of the poor;

6. A person of community;

7. A person of dialogue and peace;

8. A person of mission, in-mission, led by pastoral charity;

9. A humble companion, brother, father, mother, friend on the journey to the Kingdom;

10. A compassionate servant-leader.


Conclusion.

The list above is quite formidable. Seminaries have about 10 years of formation to achieve this vision of the priest. Seminary formators can only do so much. The individual candidate himself is the principal agent. We can be strengthened and comforted by the realization that throughout the entire process of formation, the Holy Spirit is the Primary Formator.

But the teacher, as wise men in the Church have told us, cannot be really effective unless he is also a witness -- of the Good Shepherd unto whose image he helps form the seminarian. Beyond teaching then is the daunting task of being a role model.

May Mary, the Mother of Priests, intercede for us as we respond to the Lord’s call, Pastores dabo vobis.


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Consultation by FABC-Office of the Clergy
Hua Hin, Thailand
May 15, 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

CHARTER CHANGE AND MORAL WISDOM

What should we think about Charter Change? Congress is now starting to discuss the issue. An issue that deals with the central and most fundamental document of the land is the concern of all citizens.

In their 1977 comprehensive Pastoral Exhortation on politics, the Bishops of the Philippines wrote the following:

“We believe that the way to unity is to unconditionally, unequivocally and irrevocably terminate all attempts to revise the Constitution at this time. When the time does come, let it be done with widespread participation and a unity of vision, with total transparency and serenity, with reasons unarguably directed to the common good rather than to the self-serving interests of politicians…” (No. 45).

Should the bishops say the same thing today? Here is my own opinion on the matter.

Prudence is a moral virtue. It is right judgment about what needs to be done. It is both moral and practical wisdom. Neither good intention nor charity suffices. Charity forms a good intention. But charity has to be guided by prudence. “A prudent person knows how to find the right means for a good end.” (Michael Downey, ed. The New Dictionary of Spirituality, 1993, “Prudence”, p. 1005). Prudence is the moral virtue that is needed to discern what must be done for the common good.

Prudence or moral wisdom is necessary when considering the issue of Charter Change. We need to consider the following, among others:

1. Will Charter Change solve our political and economic problems? I would submit that the answer is No. We cannot blame the Constitution for our political problems. They are of our own making. These problems are basically rooted in the way we see and use politics as a politics of patronage, of personalities, and of pay-offs. The craving for political power is colored by this exploitation of politics for goals foreign to the common good. Political divisiveness, adversarial politics, political gridlock, hypercritical politics, political pettiness – these are some of the results of such mental framework. For the same reasons, electoral processes are easily tainted with dishonesty. Charter Change is not, a much less the, solution. A Constitution is as good as the people and their leaders make it to be. Similarly, the Constitution does not make people poor. What makes people poor is injustice, the diversion of government funds to vested interests, or worse, to pockets unknown, three decades of misdirected economic development, the bias for a macro-view of economic development to the neglect of “the little people”, lack of access for the poor to economic opportunities, unjust distribution of resources and the benefits of development, etc. (see other reasons in CBCP 1998 Pastoral Exhortation on Economics, 1998). Therefore, the priorities today are political and economic reforms, especially the renewal of persons and the reform of policies. Charter Change is certainly not the priority.

2. Will Charter Change be beneficial? Considering the urgent needs of the country, I submit that the answer is No. Our legislators are targeting 2004, less than two years from now, as the time for Charter Change. Until then our legislators will spend a lot of valuable time discussing matters of Charter Change rather than focusing on the urgent ans serious needs of the country. The total process of Charter Change will eat up billions of pesos that could be used for micro-economic initiatives of the poor so urgently needed today. Charter Change at this time would simply be counter-productive. It distracts the attention and interests of legislators and people from the real problems that beset the country.

3. Is Charter Change timely? I submit that the answer is No. Charter Change in 2004 is absolutely premature. The main issue that proponents of Charter Change wish to tackle is the question of the form of government. Will it be parliamentary? Will it be federalist? Or is the present system adequate? These are questions that require widespread participation, not merely the so-called barangay consultations or “signature campaigns” that we all know about and are amused by, simply because of the lack of any time for intelligent and mature discussion provided for the people. Given many other issues regarding the Constitution that should be discussed by the people in general, the time before 2004 is just too short for such people participation.

Therefore, what the Bishops in 1998 wrote is still very true today. The time has not yet come for Charter Change. “When the time does come, let it be done with widespread participation and a unity of vision, with total transparency and serenity, with reasons unarguably directed to the common good…”

Prudence or moral wisdom urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo not to run for the presidency in 2004, but to concentrate all her efforts during her remaining time to solving the economic problems of the country. Moral wisdom would also demand that our legislators concentrate all their efforts toward the same objective in collaboration with the President, rather than on Charter Change.

(Note: this is a reprint of an article of Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, OMI, that appeared in the CBCP Monitor, January 12, 2003)